Customers with plans underwritten by United States Fire Insurance Company and administered by C&F Insurance Agency, please click here to access your plan.

Balance Problems

Balance Problems

A condition which makes pets feel unsteady or lightheaded. When a cat or dog experiences balance problems, it may have trouble with walking and jumping. This can be highly uncomfortable for your pet. Balance problems have different causes, such as an ear infection, tumors or injuries such as a head trauma. It is advised to consult a veterinarian when you notice your cat or dog experiencing balance problems.

How to Recognize

Loss of balance, medically known as ataxia, is a common symptom of a large variety of health conditions in both dogs and cats. When a pet experiences ataxia, it will typically lose normal coordination in the legs. However, depending on the cause of ataxia, it can affect the head and body as well. Now, you may be wondering just exactly what constitutes abnormal coordination. While balance problems in dogs and cats can be quite obvious if they are severe, they can be difficult to detect in mild cases. Nevertheless, a typical case of ataxia is most often associated with tripping while walking, falling over for no apparent reason and swaying while standing or in motion.

Causes of Balance Problems

There are basically three types of ataxia, and they are vestibular, sensory and cerebellar. Balance problems due to vestibular issues are caused by damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve. Ataxia that is the result of sensory issues is caused by a compressed spinal cord. Finally, loss of balance due to cerebellar issues is typically caused by damage to the cerebral portion of the brain.


Since balance problems in pets can indicate a large number of illnesses and other health issues, you will need to give your vet a thorough history of your pet's symptoms and activities. Typically, the veterinarian will perform many different tests such as those that are listed here: Blood Chemical Profile, Blood Count, Electrolyte Panel, Urinalysis, Spinal/ Chest and/or Abdominal X-rays, Abdominal Ultrasound, Computed Tomography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Myelography, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis.

Similar Symptoms

In addition to the signs of ataxia described above, there are many other symptoms often associated with balance problems. While some of these symptoms may indicate mild issues, others are signs of serious problems. As such, if your pet displays any of the symptoms listed below, its balance problems may require veterinary attention: Obvious Weakness of the Legs (can affect one or more than one leg), Tilting the Head to One Side, Bobbing the Head Up and Down or Side to Side, Swaying, Stumbling While Walking and/or Falling Over, Abnormal Eye Movements, Loss of Appetite/Nausea, Difficulty Hearing/Non-responsive When Called, Sleeping More than Normal, and Confusion or Other Changes in Behavior.

Possible Conditions

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, balance problems can indicate a large number of health issues in dogs and cats. Furthermore, as described previously, these issues can involve the inner ear, spinal cord/nerves or the brain. While the list of diseases and other issues that can cause ataxia in pets is quite extensive, some of the most common conditions are listed below: Abiotrophy (premature degeneration of the cerebellum), Encephalitis, Panleukopenia Virus (cats), Various Forms of Cancer (especially of the brain), Middle Ear Infections, Immune-Mediated Diseases, Trauma to the Spinal Cord or Brain, Degeneration of the Spinal Cord or Nerve Roots, Spinal Cord Cysts or Malformations, Blood Clots, Strokes, Anemia, and Electrolyte Disturbances.

Treatment for Balance Problems

Treatment for balance problems depends on what is causing the ataxia in the first place. This is why a definitive diagnosis is so important. Depending on the condition that your pet is suffering from, treatment plans may include one or more of the following procedures and medications: IV Fluid Therapy, Electrolyte Replacement Therapy, Antibiotics, Anti-inflammatory Medications, Chemotherapy, Surgery, Blood Thinners, and Special Diets. It is essential to note that if you have a pet with ataxia, it is best to restrict its activity so that it does not get hurt. Additionally, you can place child protection gates in stairways or other areas to protect your pet. By following these tips and your veterinarian's advice, you can help your dog or cat lead a healthier and happier life.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

Get a Free Pet Insurance Quote